There are no economic or financial rationale for exempting the 25 members who will serve on the AML/CFT Coordination Committee from paying taxes. Buried in Section 7.g.1. of the AML/CFT bill is a clause that exempts members of the committee from all forms of taxes. This is not just unacceptable, it is a clear indication that the government sees itself as answerable to no one, not even taxpayers who fund the government.
At a time when ordinary people are being taxed into poverty, the economy is trending downwards and critical social services are government officials are getting richer. Every citizen must pay their fair share of taxes, especially those receiving a paycheck from the public’s purse. The government should be setting the example not be exempting itself from the rules.
Perhaps more disappointing, this is yet another indication that the current administration sees itself as being governed by separate laws from the rest of Guyanese. Considering that about 3 years ago the government increased salaries for government officials up to 100%, exempting them from taxes amounts to a direct transfer of wealth from ordinary families to the government officials. Such actions do not inspire but undermine public trust and confidence in the government’s promise for greater transparency and accountability.
With endless public needs unmet such as hospitals and schools without basic supplies, using scare tax revenues to fund tax exemptions for government officials is the worse possible use of public revenues. Yet the government expect Guyanese to trust that oil and gas revenues will benefit all. It is hard not to call a spade a spade. The current administration has consisted take swipe at institutions of transparency, good governance, public accountability and fiscal disciple instead of strengthening these institution, one of its key campaign promise.
Here are some of the most consequential actions of the current administration that pose serious threat to our democracy and raise serious questions about the direction of Guyana’s future.
1. Increase taxation for ordinary Guyanese.
2. Increase salaries for high-level government officials up to 100%.
3. Ramp up enforcement on ordinary families for paying taxes, but largely refused to refund taxpayers who the government owes.
4. Using scarce revenues to pay for exemptions for government officials instead of closing critical service gaps.
5. Inclusion of a sedation clause in the cybercrime bill which silence free speech and public dissent.
6. Failed to disclosed oil bonus received from Exxon Mobil until the company made a public disclose.
7. Poor negotiation of oil contracts with Exxon Mobil which reduced the benefits Guyanese would receive for their own oil resources.
8. Close multiple sugar factories and put about 7,000 ordinary families on the road to poverty and cut funding for agriculture for almost 3 consecutive years.
9. Shifted billions of dollars away from critical public services to the Ministry of Presidency to pay for governance and ‘other charges’ - whatever this means.
10. Spend hundreds of millions of dollars on projects that have no public benefits such as the Durban park project while completely abandon projects that would deliver real benefits to families and the economy such as the Amelia Hydro project.
This list is not exhausted. The combine impact of these decision is significant and devastating. When you take the combine impact of these decisions, it is not surprising that the economy is declining, people are frustrated and feeling hopeless, job growth is negative and fate of country is hanging in a balance.